How a whole swath of B2B media companies got wiped out

Reflect for a few minutes on the amazingly changed profile of B2B media. The first thing that’s apparent is that all of the large companies are gone. Fifteen or so years ago, there were many companies in the $300 million to $600 million range. There was VNU, Advanstar, Ziff Davis, IDG, Intertec Publishing, Penton Media, Cahners Business Information, McGraw-Hill, CMP Media, Hanley Wood, Miller Freeman, and more.

Most of those companies are gone. Penton is still a company of scale, but Hanley Wood is much smaller. Cygnus, VNU, Cahners, CMP, Intertec, and others are gone. IDG and Ziff have become radically different. Advanstar lives on as a unit of UBM. 

UBM is one remaining giant, and has absorbed several media companies, but its main focus is events.

On the far opposite end of the spectrum, B2B media is in a period of great fluidity in the creation of new, much smaller, mostly digital companies. Among these are IndustryDive, Praetorian Digital, G3 Communications, Breaking Media, Skift, SmartBrief, and many others. This is healthy for B2B. 

But when a whole swath of companies — an entire economic tier — is wiped out, there’s something existential going on. The underlying trends need to be understood.  

“I had this same thought six months ago,” says Hanley Wood’s CEO, Peter Goldstone. “A lot of the big holding companies have been broken up. They divested a lot of assets to smaller capital platforms. Family-owned companies. It’s almost like the way it used to be in the old B2B world.”

Goldstone is not alone in recognizing this. Most of the experienced B2B executives who’ve gone through this industry transformation recognize it too, and can can usually put their finger directly on the cause. 

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